HONOLULU (AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it fined Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. $75,000 for failing to shut down three large cesspools.
The EPA says the cesspools were not closed at Mauna Loa's macadamia nut processing plant and visitor center in Hilo until August 2007, more than two years past the April 2005 deadline.
The facility is now connected to a state-approved sewer system.
The EPA says cesspools release raw sewage into the ground, contaminating ground water, streams and the ocean.
''We are pleased to announce this settlement and inform other companies of the necessity to fully comply with EPA's regulations,'' Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region, said in a release. ''Proper closure of large capacity cesspools, through our ongoing compliance and enforcement efforts, results in protection of Hawaii's groundwater and coastal environment.''
Large-capacity cesspools are those that serve multiple dwellings or a nonresidential location with 20 or more people.
The EPA says it notified Mauna Loa, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company, of the April 2005 deadline in the summer of 2004.
But EPA officials say when they inspected the Hilo facility in 2006, the cesspools were still open.
Kirk Saville, a spokesman for The Hershey Company, said in a statement Mauna Loa worked ''diligently'' with the state Department of Health and EPA to design the new sewer system, which he said ''exceeds all regulatory requirements.''
''There has never been any evidence or any suggestion of environmental harm from the previous system,'' he said, adding that Hershey has a long-standing commitment to protecting the environment.
Mauna Loa has agreed to the fine, according to the EPA's release.
The EPA says cesspools have been used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state and many are owned by county, state and federal agencies.